Mobile phone operator Three UK has confirmed that it will not charge a premium for its LTE high-speed mobile network. Three's announcement contrasts sharply with the payment plans offered by Everything Everywhere's (EE) Orange and T-Mobile brands, which are both widely regarded as expensive and limited by draconian data-usage caps.
"We don't want to limit 'ultrafast' services to a select few based on a premium price and we've decided our customers will get this service as standard," said Three UK CEO Dave Dyson.
Three expects to start its LTE service later this year, following the radio spectrum auction which is currently taking place.
Three is set to gain about 25 per cent of EE's 1.8GHz spectrum as a condition of the merger between France Telecom-owned Orange and Deutsche Telekom-owned T-Mobile, and will therefore have plenty of high-speed bandwidth that it can devote to LTE. Other networks, in contrast, are still using major portions of their bandwidth to continue running legacy GSM services.
Three's Ultrafast network, currently supported by DC-HSDPA technology, already covers 55 per cent of the UK population, claims Three. It will reach four-fifths of the population by the end of March and, in the second half of this year, it will incorporate 1800Mhz spectrum already acquired by Three to add even more coverage and capacity, it adds.
Devices capable of taking advantage of ultra-fast LTE services include the Apple iPhone 5, Nokia Lumia 920, Sony Xperia Z, Apple iPad mini and the latest Apple iPad. Ultrafast-ready LTE versions of the Samsung Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II will be launched on the Three network within the next month, as well as the BlackBerry Z10, which was formally launched just last week.
While Chancellor George Osborne had expected to reap at least £3.5bn from the auction, the signs are that he will be disappointed. In November 2012, communications regulator Ofcom set a reserve price of £1.3bn for all the airwaves put up for auction. This is significantly less than the £22.5bn raised by the 3G auction in 2000.